Rule Changes to Small Claims Court and Simplified Procedure in Ontario

Effective January 1, 2020, the monetary jurisdiction of Small Claims Court has increased from $25,000 to $35,000. This is an important change for employment law as many wrongful dismissal cases will fall within this jurisdiction. Small Claims Court has streamlined procedures and often moves significantly faster than other levels of the Court.

In addition, the monetary jurisdiction for Simplified Procedure (which has several procedural differences from the “regular procedure” such as time limits on discovery and length of trial) increases from $100,000 to $200,000.  Most employment cases will fall within either the Small Claims Court or Simplified Procedure.

Along with the increase in the monetary jurisdiction for Small Claims Court and Simplified Procedure, there have been other significant changes to amounts that can be awarded for costs, if successful. Under Rule 76.12.1 no party to an action under this Rule may recover costs exceeding $50,000.00 or disbursements exceeding $25,000.00, excluding HST. These cost limitations do not apply to actions commenced before January 1, 2020, although the other changes set out below will impact ongoing cases, such as:

  • The parties must agree to a Trial Management Plan at least 30 days before a pre-trial conference which includes a list of every witness, a detailed time allocation for opening statements, witnesses, cross-examination, re-examination and closing arguments;
  • Trials are capped at five (5) days;
  • No Jury Trials in Simplified Procedure, unless it is for slander, libel, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment;
  • Each party will have up to three (3) hours for Examinations for Discovery (an increase from two (2) hours); and
  • The procedure for a trial of an action under the Simplified Rules has been outlined.

An increase in the monetary amount for Simplified Procedure and a cap on costs provides some certainty regarding costs. At the same time, the cap will lead counsel to consider the cost consequences of going to Trial and forces the parties take proactive steps to manage the trial process.  The changes represent an attempt by the Ontario Government to streamline the system, reduce the amount of trial time required and to create additional efficiencies in an effort to address a backlogged civil court system. Only time will tell if these changes are successful in accomplishing that motive.